June 12, 2009

Scientists Unlock Secrets of Red Wine’s Health Benefits

For nearly 200 years, red wine has been touted for its unmatched health benefits. It's been shown to do everything from preventing cancer to protecting the heart and brain from damage to preventing age-related disorders such as diabetes and inflammation. Now, researchers said they are finally starting to scientifically explain these widespread benefits.

Red wide contains a complex mixture of compounds, but there's one superstar that usually garners the most attention "“ resveratrol. Researchers said there may be other compounds in nature that possess similar properties as resveratrol, but it remains one of the most studied and most consumed compounds.

"I think that red wine has both some mystique and some historical symbolism in the west, and of course, some various pleasures attached to its ingestion, all of which give it a psychological advantage edge, food-wise," said Stephen Taylor, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at Australia's University of Queensland. "Not many of us can or will eat a couple of cups of blueberries a day for years on end, but if we could do a population study for a decade or so on such a group, you might actually see similar results."

But as for resveratrol, study after study continues to confirm its role in improving health and scientists said they are finally starting to understand not only what it does but how it does it.

Taylor said in studying resveratrol, he's also learned an important lesson: the compound is usually activated by the gut or liver before it reached the bloodstream, where it exerts its effects; therefore, most of the resveratrol in red wine does not reach the circulation.

"Interestingly, absorption via the mucous membranes in the mouth can result in up to around 100 times the blood levels if done slowly rather than simply gulping it down," Taylor said. "Of course, we don't know if these things matter yet, but issues like this are real and generally ignored by all."

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, September 2009